Tuesday, April 01, 2008

Mali Monday #7: Salif Keita

Image found here.

Official website (in French)

allmusic page.

Wikipedia entry

Keita, born in 1949, is, along with the late Ali Farka Touré, one of the patriarchs of Malian popular music. In Mali, even being of royal descent is sometimes not enough to guarantee success. A direct descendant of Sundiata Keita, the founder of the Mali Empire in the 13th century, Salif Keita was ostracized by his family and the community because of his albinism (thought to be a sign of bad luck). Strike two against him was when he announced his intention to become a musician: in the southern part of Mali, where Keita is from, the social caste system of the time determined that only griots could be musicians. Apparently, royalty can't do anything they darn well please. A gifted guitarist and a marvelous singer, Keita began his career in Europe; a few years ago, though, he returned to Mali to live.

Keita's albums in the '90s tended toward the slickly-produced, sounding like Western dance music with only a patina of West African stylings. But with Moffou (2002) (Amazon link is below), he returned to traditional instrumentation for both dance numbers and quieter pieces.

Here are two videos. In the first, "Folon," he demonstrates his elegant guitar playing and his affecting high tenor:

In this one, a video for "Madan," Keita, his band (all-acoustic) and singers get their groove on. This is from the album Moffou, which I cannot recommend highly enough--and not just for the quality of the music, but for how beautifully the record has been engineered: it has a great live feel to it that makes it feel as though the music is in your lap and not just coming out some speakers.


R. Sherman said...

I'm listening to/watching the second video as I write this.

It occurs to me to ask, without any snark intended, how many Mali Mondays will we get? Mali doesn't have that many people. Is there a substantial oeuvre of Malian popular music? Does it distinguish itself from the rest of West Africa?

Sorry, just stuff that pops into mind.



John B. said...

It's a question I've wondered myself--just last night, in fact. At least in this format, not too many more. There are a few more individual performers that have bodies of work significant enough to merit posts like this, but some that I like don't even have album-length recordings out--I know of them because single songs of theirs have shown up on compilations of various sorts. It's not as though A&R guys are roaming the Sub-Sahara, looking for the Next Big Thing in Malian Music. Also, decent-quality performance videos have proven to be harder to find than I'd assumed to be the case: Keita, for example, has no professionally-made concert videos available online that I was able to find, and he is indeed a major star.

So, after a while we'll switch to reviews of individual albums.